It is commonly said, “You are what you eat”. Think of it, the human body has over 30 trillion cells. One source says 37 trillion and others say over 60 trillion and as much as 70 trillion cells. The fact is that cell division is on-going all the time in our bodies, so that in a year, all the cells are typically replaced with new cells. That is why cancer and other degenerative diseases are bad: good cells being replaced by bad ones. I have suffered from Prostate Cancer, Diabetes and hypertension, so I know what I am talking about. It takes great effort and prayers to reverse any degrative disease once it has started, and I am on it by the Health Tips in these series. Please consult your Doctor to diagnose and treat any disease you may be suffering from.
There are some 60 chemical elements in the human body. There are trace elements, also called micro-minerals, such as iron, iodine, fluoride, copper, zinc, chromium, selenium, manganese and molybdenum. These trace elements are all vital for maintaining good health. They are part of enzymes, hormones and cells in the body.
About 96 percent of the mass of the human body is made up of just four elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen, with a lot of that in the form of water. The remaining 4 percent is a sparse sampling of the periodic table of elements.
The more prominent ones are called macro nutrients, while those appearing only as parts per million or less are referred to as micronutrients.
These nutrients perform various functions, including the building of bones and cell structures, regulating the body’s pH, carrying charge, and driving chemical reactions.
The FDA has set a reference daily intake for 12 minerals (calcium, iron, phosphorous, iodine, magnesium, zinc, selenium, copper, manganese, chromium, molybdenum, and chloride). Sodium and potassium also have recommended levels, but they are treated separately.
However, this does not exhaust the list of elements that you need. Sulfur is not usually mentioned as a dietary supplement because the body gets plenty of it in proteins.
And there are several other elements — such as silicon, boron, nickel, vanadium and lead — that may play a biological role but are not classified as essential.
Here is a quick rundown of the first 20 elements, with the percentage of body weight in parentheses.
Oxygen(65%) and hydrogen (10%) are mostly found in water, which makes up about 60 % of body weight. It’s practically impossible to imagine life without water.
Carbon (18%) is synonymous with life. Its central role is the fact that it has four bonding sites that allow for the building of long, complex chains of molecules. Also, carbon bonds can be formed and broken with a modest amount of energy, allowing for the dynamic organic chemistry that goes on in our cells.
Nitrogen(3%) is found in many organic molecules, including the amino acids that make up proteins, and the nucleic acids that make up DNA.
Calcium(1.5%) is the most common mineral in the human body — nearly all of it found in bones and teeth. Ironically, calcium’s most important role is in bodily functions, such as muscle contraction and protein regulation. In fact, the body will actually pull calcium from bones (causing problems like osteoporosis) if there’s not enough of the element in a person’s diet.
Phosphorus(1%) is found mostly in bone but also in the molecule ATP, which provides energy in cells for driving chemical reactions.
Potassium(0.25%) is an important electrolyte (meaning it carries a charge in solution). It helps regulate the heartbeat and is vital for electrical signaling in nerves.
Sulfur(0.25%) is found in two amino acids that are important for giving proteins their shape.
Sodium(0.15%) is another electrolyte that is vital for electrical signaling in nerves. It also regulates the amount of water in the body.
Chlorine(0.15%) is usually found in the body as a negative ion, called chloride. This electrolyte is important for maintaining a normal balance of fluids.
Magnesium(0.05%) plays an important role in the structure of the skeleton and muscles. It also is necessary in more than 300 essential metabolic reactions.
Iron(0.006%) is a key element in the metabolism of almost all living organisms. It is also found in hemoglobin (about 3 to 4 grams of iron in the body), which is the oxygen carrier in red blood cells. Half of women don’t get enough iron in their diet. Iron is also part of many enzymes and is essential for growth, healing, immune function and synthesis of DNA. For adequate intakes of this essential nutrient, include foods such as beef (I personally don’t take large amounts anymore, only minutely or seasonally), poultry, fish, soybean flour, spinach, beans and fortified cereals in your diet.
Fluorine(0.0037%) is found in teeth and bones. Outside of preventing tooth decay and possibly bone loss, it does not appear to have any importance to bodily health. While your main source of fluoride is fluoridated water, fluorine is also present in saltwater fish, tea and coffee.
Zinc(0.0032%) is an essential trace element for all forms of life. Several proteins contain structures called “zinc fingers” help to regulate genes. Zinc deficiency has been known to lead to dwarfism in developing countries. In addition to its role in formation of enzymes, zinc improves immune function, helps clot blood, maintains sense of taste and smell, keeps skin healthy and enables normal growth and development. You can obtain sufficient amounts of zinc by regularly eating eggs, seafood, red meats, fortified cereals and whole grains.
Copper (0.0001%) is important as an electron donor in various biological reactions. The body has about 75 mg of copper, about one-third of which is found in the muscles. Without enough copper, iron won’t work properly in the body. Copper prevents damage to cells due to its antioxidant action, and as a component of many enzymes it helps in production of energy from carbohydrates, protein and fat. Copper combines with certain proteins to produce enzymes that act as catalysts to help a number of body functions. Some are involved in the transformation of melanin for pigmentation of the skin, and others help to form cross-links in collagen and elastin and thereby maintain and repair connective tissues. This is especially important for the heart and arteries. Research suggests that copper deficiency is one factor leading to an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease. Copper is also essential for formation of bone, connective tissues and red blood cells. It is present in many foods including organ meats, shellfish, chocolate, beans and whole-grain cereals.
Iodine (0.000016%) is required for making of thyroid hormones T3, or triiodothyronine, and T4, or thyroxine, which regulates metabolic rate and other cellular functions. Iodine deficiency, which can lead to goiter and brain damage especially in new born, is an important health problem prevalent throughout much of the world. However, you can get sufficient amounts of iodine by consuming iodized salt, seafood, eggs and milk.
Selenium (0.000019%) is essential for certain enzymes, including several anti-oxidants. Unlike animals, plants do not appear to require selenium for survival, but they do absorb it, so there are several cases of selenium poisoning from eating plants grown in selenium-rich soils. Selenium, along with vitamin E works as an antioxidant that prevents damage of cells, may prevent some cancers and is essential for the normal functioning of the thyroid gland. Meat, seafood, nuts and cereals are good sources of selenium.
Chromium(0.0000024%) helps regulate sugar levels by interacting with insulin, but the exact mechanism is still not completely understood. Apart from positively vitalizing the insulin in your body, which maintains your blood sugar levels, Chromium is also essential for metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Some important sources of chromium include liver, processed meats, brewer’s yeast, whole grains, cheese and nuts.
Manganese(0.000017%) is essential for certain enzymes, in particular those that protect mitochondria — the place where usable energy is generated inside cells — from dangerous oxidants. Manganese not only helps in the formation of enzymes, but is also necessary for their activation. It works as an antioxidant, helps develop bones and heals wounds by increasing collagen production. Good sources of manganese include pineapple, nuts, whole grains and beans.
Molybdenum (0.000013%) is essential to virtually all life forms. In humans, it is important for transforming sulfur into a usable form. In nitrogen-fixing bacteria, it is important for transforming nitrogen into a usable form. Like manganese, molybdenum helps activate some enzymes and enables normal cell function. Sources of molybdenum include milk, legumes, whole-grain breads and nuts.
Cobalt (0.0000021%) is contained in vitamin B12, which is important in protein formation and DNA regulation.
CAUTION: Too much or too little?
Large amounts of essential elements can prove toxic:
- Too much copper in the diet can result in damage to the liver, discolorations of the skin and hair, and can cause hyperactivity in children.
- Too much iron in the diet can result in damage to the heart and liver.
Too little of any given essential element can result in ill-health and, if left untreated, could result in death:
- Zinc is a component of certain digestive enzymes and other proteins. Not enough in the diet can result in growth failure, scaly skin inflammation, reproductive failure, and impaired immunity.
- People who suffer from iron deficiency show symptoms such as lack of energy, getting tired easily and being short of breath.
Knowledge is power. If you are armed with the knowledge of what you eat and how it nourishes your body you will be healthy. Everything you put into your body, whether it is a spoon of your specially spiced delicious rice, a bite of an apple, drinking a glass of water, or taking a boost of juice, eating some sticks of carrots or mulching properly washed raw kale leaves as I now do, all of which transformed my health, you would come to accept that the right food and drinks improves your health, vitality and quality of life. My body is the greatest factory in the world and I better maintain it in optimal performance by putting in the right ingredients so my overall well-being will be pleasing to God, myself, my spouse and my children. By so doing, I will live long to fulfil my days in Jesus name. Amen.